Friday, May 6, 2016

Impressions of, and questions concerning--F, Johan Larsson

Reprinted with permission from

Forward--Johan Larsson
DOB:  July 25, 1992 (age, 23)
Draft:  2010, 2nd round (56th overall,) MIN
How acquired:  Trade with Minnesota, April 3, 2013 
Last contract signed:  2016--1yr./$950k
Final year of contract:  2016-17

2015-16 Stats:  74 games, 10 goals, 7 assists, 17 points, -4

What we wrote preseason:  "Larsson has had to pay his dues while constantly overcoming failures and inconsistencies. It wasn't all that long ago that the team had Larsson in a depth role yo-yoing between Rochester and Buffalo as he was unable to transfer his game to the NHL-level and it wasn't until after the [2015] trade deadline that Larsson finally passed through the NHL threshold."

Head coach Dan Bylsma on Larsson after talking to scouts prior to his taking the reigns in Buffalo--"They liked him a lot. They thought he played a hard, kind of a sandpaper, gritty game. They scouted him as such. That’s what he’s going to bring to the table. Hard to play against, and that’s what he’s got to bring for our team."

What we wrote mid-season:  "he may also have found his place. Like Gionta, Bylsma had him up in the top six but it didn't work out so now Larsson's nipping at the ankles of the opposition on the third line. When he's on his game he's a pest, and when that line is on, they're aggressive on the forecheck, making it extremely difficult on the opposition. And right now, they're on."

Impressions on his play this year:  For the second year in a row, Larsson came on strong in the second half of the season. In 2014-15, he finally stuck with the big club and during the final 17 games of the season he had five goals and added eight assists while centering Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis on the Sabres top line. This past season he did it again. After being moved all around the lineup for the first half of the season he settled in on the third line centering Marcus Foligno and captain Brian Gionta. Larsson finished the season with 11 points (8g +3a) in his last 20 games and a plus-4 rating.

Bylsma mentioned after a preseason game that he relied on Larsson a lot on the dot, especially in crucial situations. That faith in him spilled over in the regular season and Larsson responded well as he went from a 44% on the draw in 2014-15 to a team second-best (500 faceoffs or more) 51.1% last season. This bodes extremely well for the team moving forward.

Questions moving forward:   How much do the likes of Foligno and especially Gionta contribute to his success? Has he found a home in the bottom-six and can he up his production while remaining chippy? If the Sabres add to the top-six, what does that mean for their line? Will Bylsma keep that line together and drop them to the 4th line as a whole? Can Larsson continue to round out his all-around game?


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